SEVEN-year-old Jack Johnson might only be around 4ft but he’ll be walking 10ft tall tonight.
He will enter the gladiator’s arena at Twickenham to walk out alongside the England team ahead of their World Cup clash with the mighty Australia – and there’ll be no one prouder than the man stood at his side, sharing the load.
Jack was lucky enough to be invited by tournament sponsors Emirates to be a flagbearer when the two rugby giants clash on Saturday. He will be kitted out in full England gear to lead out the England squad on whose shoulders the hopes of a nation rest. But for his dad Andy, able to walk out alongside his eldest son to help carry out the heavyweight task, World Cup glory will only ever come second to his real dream.
Jack is no ordinary excited young rugby fan. At the age of three he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a horrific muscle-wasting disease for which there is currently no cure – but there is hope.
Andy, alongside his wife Alex, founded the Joining Jack charity in their beloved son’s name three years ago in a desperate battle to raise funds and awareness of the disease. The charity has so far raised more than £1m to fund promising research projects which give Jack and the 300,000 boys currently battling DMD worldwide, a lifeline.
And, as the former star of his hometown rugby league club Wigan, and much like the England team on Saturday night, Andy has an army of supporters behind him to fly the flag for his brave son.
His former team mate is England coach Andy Farrell whose son Owen is famous for signalling the JJ salute during his international and club performances for Saracens while the Joining Jack Legends team which Andy set up to take part in the Dubai Emirates Sevens – hence the connection – features World Cup winner turned TV pundit Jason Robinson along with a host of former legends of both codes.
Their continued allegiance, alongside the hundreds and thousands of fundraisers who have supported the charity over the past three years, might just see the cheers for Jack’s arrival on the pitch outweigh the 80,000-strong crowd – especially with mum Alex and younger brother James, leading the cheers from the sidelines.
So is Jack looking forward to the game and has he got a prediction? Alex says he’s just hoping he doesn’t let the team down – especially if the queen is watching.